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Postelection Statement on Jamaica Elections, Oct. 18, 2002


We commend the Jamaican voters for participating peacefully in an election day that was generally free of the violence marring it in elections prior to 1997. The Jamaican people made a clear call for change in the culture of violence, and the candidates have responded. We commend the leaders of the parties for their gracious and statesmanlike speeches last night, for their calls to work together for the good of the country, and for their joint pre-election statement calling for a peaceful election. The security forces played a professional role that contributed to an orderly process, and the Electoral Office of Jamaica and election workers performed steadfastly, sometimes in stressful situations. The leadership of the Electoral Advisory Committee and Director of Elections Danville Walker created the most trusted electoral process in Jamaica's modern history.

Jamaica has made strides in its electoral reforms, its innovative Elections Center, and in reducing the violence and intimidation. Nevertheless, more needs to be done to ensure that these reforms are institutionalized and that the culture of violence is transformed to a culture of respect and tolerance. We abhor the violence during the campaign period and the gunfire experienced on election day, and condemn the continuation of a system, often called "garrisons", that allows for intimidation and unfair electoral conditions with no respect for political rights of the political minority. It is now up to the newly-elected representatives to join the noteworthy efforts of civil society groups, the private sector, churches, and media to promote a new political culture.

Leading to election day, the delegation opened a field office prior to Nomination Day and deployed eight medium-term observers to monitor the campaign and electoral preparations. In addition, five specialists observed the work of the security forces, Elections Center, conflict resolution mechanisms in the constituencies, and the electoral office. This presence gave the team an in-depth understanding of the political and electoral process. We appreciate the warm welcome and cooperation of the Jamaican people and authorities to all of our observers, and we thank the observers for volunteering their time and expertise to serve so selflessly in the Carter Center's election observation mission.

Our preliminary reports indicate that the elections process adequately allowed Jamaican voters to freely choose their representatives. Any complaints and evidence of irregularities should follow the proper legal channels. The final outcome will, of course, need to await the official count and resolution of any grievances. Mr. Seaga has pledged to follow peaceful and legal procedures, and we urge all Jamaicans to recognize his lead and remain calm until the final vote process and challenges are complete.

Carter Center Election Delegation Findings:

The delegation of 60 persons from 16 countries visited 864 polling stations in 29 constituencies. We found that the security forces or one-day specials were present in over 99 percent of the polling locations we observed, and that the designated polling officials were working in approximately 95% of the stations.

Party agents from at least two parties were present in 85 percent of the stations, which is an important check on possible manipulation of the process. Nevertheless, some urban centers continued to have only one political party represented, leading to a potential lack of complete transparency in those areas. The participation of CAFFE in nearly one-half of the stations that we observed shows the strong interest and dedication of citizens to participate to assure the integrity of their democracy.

The vast majority of the polling stations that we observed opened within an hour of the designated time, with only four delayed more than two hours due to flooding, lack of security, or problems with the site. The electoral procedures preserving the secrecy of the ballot were followed in large part, but several other safeguards seemed to be less well understood by the election workers. We witnessed inconsistencies in checking hands for ink, presiding officer's initialing the ballots before voting occurred, checking to ensure that the ballot's counterfoil number correlated to the ballot given to the voter, and removal of the counterfoil after voting.

In all, the large majority of the stations that we observed functioned well or with only minor problems. However, we also witnessed a tense and intimidating climate in a few of the locations.

Preliminary Conclusions of the Delegation:

1. The election preparations showed significant advances over the past. In particular, the state of the art voter's registry allowed all those who desired to vote the best opportunity to do so in Jamaica's recent history. The consultative process for verifying the voter's list, determining the location of polling stations, and vetting names of an entirely new pollworker force contributed to the confidence in this electoral process.

The cadre of 21,000 new election workers performed admirably under, at times, adverse conditions. The electoral authority supervisors were a great asset to the process, and we appreciated the high percentage of women acting to ensure the success of election day. It was clear to all of our observers the great professionalism and dedication that the election day workers exhibited. However, additional training in some aspects of election day procedures and closings or simplification of the processes is needed. Inconsistencies in running of the polling stations caused some of the planned safeguards to have no meaning.

Breaking up the large polling locations and reducing the number of polling station clusters could reduce disorderliness in some of those voting locations. We witnessed confusion on the part of some voters related to their particular voting station, and some who were turned away. The planned electronic transmission of information about election day performance and the vote count did not perform as expected.

2. Elections Center, bringing together the parties, electoral authorities, political ombudsman, security forces, and observers, was an innovative idea to allow for the immediate resolution of disputes and the dispelling of rumors that could create more havoc on election day and preceding it. It deserves to be further institutionalized in the future, with procedures and mechanisms developed, in order to serve as a model for Jamaica and other countries.

3. The security forces played an outstanding role on election day in maintaining peace and order, with few exceptions. The persistence of shootings, stonings, and other clashes during the campaign period and on election day, however, needs continued attention. The cooperative efforts of the electoral authorities, ombudsman, and police to restrict public events in the most volatile constituencies helped to contain these problems. The security forces took additional measures to curb any potential misconduct by its members, and these plans appeared successful. In some cases, more effective crowd control inside polling locations was needed.

4. The Code of Conduct and the office of the Political Ombudsman are an advance over the 1997 elections, illustrated by the signing of the Code by nearly all of the candidates well before election day, and by several candidates walking together for peace prior to and on election day. The parties complied for the most part with the rulings of the ombudsman on inflammatory advertisements and public utterances. We look forward to the full report of the Ombudsman and urge a more formalized mechanism for periodic release of information about the cases brought and considered and the resolutions adopted.

5. The occurrence of violence, though reduced, continues to be a serious concern in the Jamaican electoral process. Tragically, deaths continued during the election period, including a seven-person killing in Rockhall on election day, though almost all of the recent deaths may be attributed to criminal activity rather than political motivations. Gunfire was reported in a number of constituencies during the period for voting and assaults on candidates, party workers, and voters occurred throughout the process. These must be halted in the future. The Prime Minister's ban on post-election motorcades is a welcome attempt to prevent dangerous clashes between party supporters in the days following the election.

6. Intimidation of voters and pollworkers appeared to decrease relative to past elections, but is still a concern. Identification badges and wristbands for indoor and outdoor agents is an improvement. The fact that many agents declined to wear their party colors helped to decrease intimidation and undue influence. Nevertheless, in some areas, the dual problem of a failure to admit or provide indoor agents, and the existence of large concentrations of party supporters outside the polling areas, may have served to inhibit others from entering poll stations. In a few of the polling locations that we visited, the "garrison effects" on voting continued with apparent flouting of electoral safeguards and influence on voters' choices still occurring.

7. Heavy rains in parts of the island caused some polling stations to open late or be moved to new locations and may have had an impact on voter turnout. On the other hand, the rains may have also helped to diminish tensions and the potential for violence on election day and evening.

Jamaica, with a 40-year history of vibrant democracy, is at a turning point to transform its culture of violence. A mostly peaceful election day is proof that it is possible to change. The energetic efforts of civic and religious groups made clear the desire for change by Jamaican citizens, and political leaders heeded that call by committing to peace during the campaign. We applaud the Prime Minister's call for unity and transparency and urge that all the political leadership embrace these principles to finally allow Jamaica to turn the corner on violence and intolerance.

We have been privileged to witness a hard fought and close election, and we thank all those Jamaicans who gave us such a warm reception.

The mission was funded by the United States Agency for International Development and the Canadian International Development Agency, with support from the British High Commission and the South Africa High Commission in Jamaica.

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